"To fully appreciate 'the ordinary' is an extraordinary gift."
from Simplicity Parenting
Not long ago, we had one of those "ordinary" evenings--dinner, discussions, a few chores together, Mom working on the computer (in the dining room) on documents, Dad and the three boys playing Simply Catan, then Dad and the sixteen year old sitting at the dining room table working on order sheets for our business with the two "littles" playing Legoes at the same table.
All of a sudden, our fourteen year old blurted out, "I wouldn't trade tonight for anything." What did that mean? It was, so, well, ordinary. We even worked some. He went on to say, "I mean it. This is the greatest family in the world. I love this...tonight..everything about it. Just being together and doing regular 'stuff.'"
We didn't watch a movie, play a video game, go out of the house, shop, do things with friends, or play on electronics. (Not that we are opposed to those things, but thankfully, it doesn't take those things to bring joy to a home.)
Three or four evenings. That's our rule of thumb for the number of evenings that all of the school aged kids and Mom and Dad are home together. Sometimes, during holidays or speaking weeks, that goal is not realized. But, more often than not, we have what we fondly call "ordinary evenings."
Now, of course, research and entire books are dedicated to the dangers of rushing children through childhood and pursuing too many activities for them (including the above-quoted book)--so maybe we're on to something here. Regardless, it is that "ordinariness" that causes our children to "not want to trade today for anything in the world."
Tips for More Evenings Together:
1. Slow down Mom and Dad's schedule, so that you can model and lead the way in creating more "ordinary nights."
2. Reduce your children's activities. We have almost always adopted the "one activity per child per semester" benchmark. (Check it out--this is now Kevin Leman's advice in Home Court Advantage, too!)
3. Try to focus on family dinners more. Even if you just start planning and having two or three sit down meals together as a family, you will likely gain more time together than most have.
4. Have a television-less night or two. At first, you might all sit and stare at each other--but eventually, the time that was spent with media will be filled with conversations, games, and just generally "being"--something many of us are lacking.
5. If you now have no predictable nights at home together, declare one night a week as a family night. Each week schedule this (according to kids' activities and calendars on a week-by-week basis) and make it a priority. Have everyone put it on their calendar and stick to your guns that you will spend that evening together. (More on family nights later!)